Rijk Zwaan says it
developed the snack-sized lettuce ‘especially for warm dishes: the lettuce
keeps its firm and crunchy bite. The leaf has a unique spoon shape and is tasty
and sweet. The permanent crunchy texture, good taste and distinctive leaf shape
offer new solutions and possibilities in the modern kitchen. An additional
advantage of Snack Lettuce is the reduction of plastic when the leaf is used as
an edible spoon.’
During the event the
hashtag #eatthespoon was used on social media to generate interest in the
concept. The breeder also used the event to demonstrate other new concepts
including MyCubies (snack cucumbers which were presented in a new package with
three in a bag), Cabbisi (a new mini pointed cabbage for use in salads) and
Elfy. Elfy is a crunchy mini celery, which can be eaten as snack because of its
Israeli crop technology company Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd says that trails of its proprietary Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) system have demonstrated the benefits of optimal root temperature on Romaine lettuce.
Trials conducted in Israel this summers showed a 132 per cent increase in lettuce leaf fresh weight, while the crop’s growing cycle was reduced by almost half, with the crop ready for harvesting in 27 days. The company said that the trial followed successful RZTO cooling proof of concepts on lettuce using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) technologies and interim results in medicinal cannabis.
Using a hybrid ground source heat exchange version of the RZTO system, lettuce roots were cooled to remain relatively stable around 24 degrees centigrade, despite air temperatures in the greenhouse regularly topping 34 degrees. In comparison, root temperature of control plantings fluctuated between 28 and 34 degrees.
Company CEO Dr Sharon Devir said that the results highlighted the many benefits of root zone cooling; “Cooling the roots of lettuce plants in summer not only significantly increases crop yield but also reduces the growing cycle duration and increase yield uniformity. These benefits together could help farmers plan for increased annual crop production and, therefore, increased income. Our RZTO systems are versatile and can be used to cool the roots of crops in open fields, grow bags, hydroponic and in soil.”
Photo Caption: The trial increased harvested fresh weight of Romaine lettuce.
Following its confirmation as a new disease in October last year, Lettuce Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporumf. sp. lactucae(FOL) has now been confirmed by laboratory analysis at two new sites in Lancashire, while a further outbreak is suspected at a site in Cambridgeshire.
All outbreaks confirmed to date have been caused by FOL race 4, which is also present in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. For protected cropping, Basamid (dazomet) is approved for de-infestation of soil before planting (one application in every third year) and is known to have activity against lettuce FOL, but in open field situations a long period between crops is advised as the disease can survive in the soil for several years.
Plants with suspect leaf symptoms should be cut in half from top to bottom to check for red/brown staining in the root which is a characteristic symptom of Fusarium wilt. Samples can be sent to Dr John Carkson at Warwick University for testing.
Photo Caption: Lettuce growers are warned to be vigilant for signs for Lettuce Fusarium wilt.
Growers have had the chance to assess the latest set of field trials forming part of AHDB Horticulture’s SCEPTREplus trials, this time looking at the control of lettuce root aphid.
The aim of the trial is to determine the efficacy of novel treatments for the control of the pest on lettuce. According the AHDB, “In recent years lettuce root aphids have been managed effectively by the neonicotinoid seed treatments used to control aphids on the foliage. The impending loss of neonicotinoids will increase the risk of lettuce root aphid infestations.”
The trial, which consists of 12 treatments including the insecticide-free control and the commercial standard of Cruiser seed treatment, was visited by growers on 8 August. The experimental products have been applied as spray, drench or phytodrip treatments across two sequential plantings which have been timed to target the migration of lettuce root aphids from overwintering sites on poplar.
Evesham-based Westland Nurseries, the UK’s largest grower of micro leaves and specialty edibles, has revealed details of its latest 1.4 ha fully automated lettuce greenhouse which has been built by Dutch company Certhon.
In an online video, Peter Taylor, General Manager of Westland Nurseries, explained, “Two years ago we decided to grow into some new markets for us of growing lettuce. The aim of the lettuce that we grow is to sell it into the premium markets. Obviously growing in a hydroponic and controlled environment we are looking for a much cleaner, more controlled, year-round grown lettuce.” He added that the quality of the product is achieved by various details, including, “The multi-gutter system for the lettuce, the glasshouses, and the lighting we use to deliver those products.”
The new greenhouse includes is 1.4 hectares, and includes insulated sandwich panels on the lower levels, with ultra-low iron glass for the roof and sides. It uses a mobile gutter system, together with an energy screen and hybrid SON-T and LED lighting system. It also makes the most of a new CHP system which was installed to feed the entire Westland site.
Lettuce growers in the UK and further afield have warned of shortages as the hot weather and lack of rain continue for the foreseeable future.
With this summer already being claimed as the hottest since 1976, wholesale prices for lettuce and some brassicas have spiked, while home-grown and imported fruit such as strawberries and melons are also attracting high prices.
“Cabbages and icebergs are suffering because they’re getting cooked in the field, prices are tremendously high. The price of lettuce has gone from £4.80 per box to £9.60,” Chris Hutchinson, owner of Arthur Hutchinson Ltd at New Spitalfields Market.
Spokesman for the British Leafy Salad Growers Association, Dieter Lloyd, said that record sales of 18 million heads of lettuce (a 40 per cent increase on the previous year) together with hot conditions which were preventing growth could lead to a shortage of the crop.
“While it is great news that leafy salad sales are up around 40 per cent across all retailers, that’s just half the story. The record temperatures have stopped the UK lettuce crop growing. When the mercury hits 30 degrees Celsius lettuces can’t grow,” he said. In all of the major growing areas, from Cupar in Fife, through Preston, Lancs, to Ely in East Anglia and Chichester, Sussex, the hot weather has affected all our growers and we may be seeing some gaps on retailers’ shelves in the next two weeks as the heat wave continues.”
One of America’s largest salad producers, California-based Taylor Farms, is increasingly using robotics to tackle the twin challenges of labour availability and increasing costs.
The company, which employs a total of 10,000 people, is using robotic harvesting rigs on some crops of Romaine and baby leaf lettuce and it says that the use of robotics is growing in the entire Californian lettuce industry. Around 95 per cent of the company’s Romaine volume is currently harvested with automated harvesters, and trials are being conducted on a number of other crops.
“Harvesting, one of the more difficult in-field jobs to perform, was a natural area of focus for us,” explains Ted Taylor, Head of New Ventures & Business Development. “Over the last eight years we have designed and built advanced machinery to optimize harvest efficiency and drive improved ergonomics for employees. This has truly been a win-win. We have been able to offer better jobs to our field employees, all while driving bottom line performance. We will continue to aggressively pursue automated harvesting functions for all our core products.”
As the UK iceberg lettuce season begins in earnest, after a welcome early start following challenging conditions in Spain, Tesco has agreed to sell a number of smaller lettuce heads under its Perfectly Imperfect range.
The lettuces, which will be sold on the basis of ‘once it’s gone, it’s gone,’ have been supplied by G’s Fresh. “It’s a flush that’s been created by the changeable weather we’ve had over the past six weeks or so,” explained Anthony Gardiner, G’s Marketing Director. “The recent frosts increased the volume of small heads because of the slow-down in growth.”
“We’ve worked with G’s for years and are in constant conversation about how to deliver the best produce to customers,” Tesco’s chilled salads buying manager Georgina Reid said.
“They know we try to accommodate different specifications, where possible, for our Perfectly Imperfect range. In this instance the product is just as good as our regular iceberg lettuce, but it’s smaller. The farmer benefits from not having to plough the lettuce back into the field, food waste is prevented and customers get a bumper bonus deal.”
Photo Caption: The cold weather has also reduced demand for lettuce, adding to the surplus.
Rijk Zwaan has been awarded with the Fruit Logistica Award for its Knox™ innovation which is a natural trait which delays discolouration.
Over 70,000 visitors to the trade fair were invited to vote for their favourite out of ten nominees. “This award is the icing on the cake following more than ten years of intensive breeding work. We wholeheartedly thank the visitors for their votes and our chain partners for their faith in Knox,” comments Bauke van Lenteren, Marketing Specialist Leafies.
Knox was first introduced in September 2015 after more than a decade of breeding work. Benefits for the whole supply chain include less waste during processing and sale. The trait can also encourage consumers to purchase fresh-cut lettuce more often because it now has a longer shelf life.
“Thanks to everyone who voted for us and a special thank-you to our team, of course. And last but not least, I’d like to thank all our partners in the value-added chain – they’ve helped us by explaining the benefits of our development,” added Jan Doldersum, Manager Marketing and Business Development at Rijk Zwaan Distribution B.V.
The company says that the roll-out of Knox will continue throughout 2017. Processing companies in the UK, Switzerland, Poland, Australia and the USA are already working with Knox lettuce varieties, and growers, vegetable processing companies and retailers in other countries are in the midst of trials.
Photo Caption: The Rijk Zwaan team celebrate their win at Fruit Logistica.
Dutch vegetable seed company Bejo Zaden has taken over specialist lettuce breeder Agrisemen.
The move will see Warmenhuizen-based Bejo acquire an established portfolio of lettuce material, along with a strong base for future development of the crop. Jack Burgers, Managing Director of Agrisemen, will help to oversee the integration of the two companies over the next two years. Agrisemen’s other lines, including Brussels sprouts and pointed cabbage will continue to be sold under the recognised Agrisemen brand.
John-Pieter Schipper, CEO of Bejo Zaden commented, “Lettuce is a popular vegetable and a major global crop. It fits very well into our product range and the crop plan of our clients. Agrisemen has extensive knowledge and an excellent lettuce breeding program. This collaboration would therefore be a great addition to our current product range.”
“With Bejo as a partner we are gaining access to an extensive international sales and distribution network and the latest research technologies,” added Jack Burgers. “This allows us to achieve our growth ambitions quicker. For us it was a conscious decision to seek an alliance with a Dutch family business where we would be a welcome addition with our product range.”